No Room for Cabinet System, Even Less Room for Pseudo-Dual Leadership System
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 1, 2015
Executive Summary: The KMT and DPP have announced their constitutional amendment proposals. The KMT advocates "a cabinet system in which responsibilities are commensurate with powers". Tsai Ing-wen, on the other hand, says that "Current mainstream public opinion demands the presidential election. Therefore there is no room for a cabinet system." But if there is no room for the cabinet system, there is even less room for a pseudo-dual-leadership system.
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The KMT and DPP have announced their constitutional amendment proposals. The KMT advocates "a cabinet system in which responsibilities are commensurate with powers". Tsai Ing-wen, on the other hand, says that "Current mainstream public opinion demands the presidential election. Therefore there is no room for a cabinet system."
If the president continues to be directly elected, and a cabinet system is adopted, the two will definitely clash. But direct presidential elections in conjuctions with a dual leadership system has a precedent in France. A constitutional crisis has arisen because our current system is a dual-leadership system in name, but a super-presidential system in practice.
Tsai Ing-wen must acknowledge that although the current constitution may calls for direct presidential elections, but it is not a presidential system in fact. It merely became a presidential system by default. This is the cause of the current constitutional crisis, and this is the matter that must be addressed.
The constitution has been severely undermined by seven previous amendments. The current constitution fails to clearly outline the president's authority and responsibility. Current constitutional powers include national defense, foreign diplomacy, and cross-Strait policy. But these so-called presidential powers come from the "Organic Law of the National Security Council", and not from the Constitution. This is the source of the controversy over "legislation trumping the constitution".
Assume for the moment that these so-called "three presidential powers" are derived from the current constitution and legislation. President Ma Ying-jeou's record in defense, diplomacy, and cross-Strait relations has been outstanding. So why has he been blasted for the 8/8 Typhoon, hikes in gasoline prices and electricity rates, the capital gains tax, and other social welfare issues? Why does even he believe he must bear total responsibility for the success or failure of these matters? As we can see, the dual leadership system has degenerated into a presidential system. In practice, Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, and Ma Ying-jeou have departed from the constitution. Put simply, constitution qua constitution, this is unconstitutional.
Therefore we must amend Tsai Ing-wen's observation: "According to the current constitution, there is no room for a presidential system." Constitutional amendments have been proposed under the current dual leadership structure. Some say we must not adopt a cabinet system in which responsibilities are commensurate with powers. Actually, we could say that we must not adopt a presidential system in which responsibilities are commensurate with powers. The key is "responsibilities commensurate with powers". Direct presidential elections pose an obstacle to the adoption of a cabinet system. Adopting a presidential system in toto could lead to an even greater constitutional crisis. That is not something the public can tolerate.
We are recutting our garments while wearing them. We are attempting to change the pseudo-dual-leadership system back to a true dual leadership system. In doing so, we must consider constitutional principles, of which there are three. One. Presidential elections should require an absolute majority. Two. The Legislative Yuan's powers of consent in premiership appointments must be restored. |Three. We must adopt an "chief executive rechanneling system". When the president enjoys a majority in the Legislative Yuan, a "Presidential cabinet system" is in force. When the president lacks a majority in the Legislative Yuan, a "Prime Ministerial cabinet system" is in force. This is the key to the French dual leadership system, in which "'responsibilities are commensurate with powers". Alas, this system has been butchered, and turned into our "pseudo-dual-leadership system". Tsai Ing-wen says that "Under direct presidential elections, there is no room for a cabinet system". But "Under direct presidential elections, there is room for a dual leadership system" either.
Therefore future constitutional amendments should move toward a "dynamic cabinet dual leadership system". In other words, the KMT should discard the cabinet system. The DPP should cease attempting to turn a dual leadership system into a presidential system.
The dual leadership system carries a hidden risk. Serious disagreements about national identity and cross-Strait policy may arise. Suppose a pro-Taiwan independence president clashes with an anti-Taiwan independence cabinet? How can they "govern jointly"? This is a problem not easily overcome within the institutional framework. A solution can be found only through practical politics.
Tsai Ing-wen said she originally supported the cabinet system. The DPP has repeatedly trumpted constitutional amendments in which "responsibilities are commensurate with powers". Yet Tsai Ing-wen now argues that "There is no room for a cabinet system". She has made a complete about face. She said that if she returned to power, she would continue to change the dual leadership system into a presidential system. Her motives for this are now clear. Constitutional amendments have been proposed, primarily by the DPP and civic groups. The public has begun to re-examine the defects in the constitutional structure. Tsai Ing-wen may return to power. But will she still be able to exploit this pseudo-dual executive system, in which responsibilities are not commensurate with powers? Will she still be able to transform it into a presidential system?
Tsai Ing-wen has ringingly proclaimed that "There is no room for a cabinet system". She has prevented a pseudo-dual leadership system from becoming a genuine dual-leadership system. The current constitutional amendment process has been stopped dead in its tracks. But a "second stage constitutional amendment" remains. We expect the debate on constitutional reform to continue. Otherwise, the pseudo-dual-leadership system will remain a presidential system in practice, thereby undermining the constitution. The people will end up as accomplices in the destruction of the constitution.
If there is no room for the cabinet system, there is even less room for a pseudo-dual-leadership system.
2015-04-01 03:00:30 聯合報 聯合報社論